DMEA Backs Uncompahgre Valley Soil Health Project

Special to the Mirror

OLATHE–On Monday, September 10, at 9:30am agricultural leader, John Harold will host a gathering of members of the Uncompahgre Soil Health Project thanking the Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA) Board of Directors for a $20,000 donation which will help secure a 1.35 million dollar Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) federal grant for the project. The event will be held at John Harold’s farm at the 4-mile corner (Hoover Corner) of 348 and 5400 Road on the North West Corner in Olathe and will feature comments from several key project members and a check presentation.

The Uncompahgre Valley Soil Health Project is a farmer-lead effort focused on agriculture sustainability in Delta and Montrose Counties. The critical need being addressed by this project is the future sus- tainability of agriculture in our area. Farm- ershavecorrectlydeterminedtherisks. Rather than fight the federal and state regu- latory impacts on water quality, they chose to proactively seeking on-the-ground solu- tions.

In 2011, a Colorado 501(c)3 nonprofit organization , called Painted Sky Resource, Conservation and Development Council (Painted Sky RC&D), which held a major federal three-year grant approved by the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) within the United States Depart- ment of Agriculture (USDA) was about to close upon the completion of its local Hart- land Diversion Dam Modification Project. This grant, which provided incentive fund- ing for farming practices and achieved soil health and water quality improvement goals was at risk of being lost. On Dec. 8, 2011, Delta County Economic Develop- ment (DCED) accepted the transfer of a

1.35 million dollar Cooperative Conserva- tion Partnership Initiative (CCPI) grant from Painted Sky RC&D. On February 1, 2012, DCED signed into a partnership agreement with the NRCS to act as the project administrator for this grant. Mont- rose Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) got on board on March 30, 2012 by entering into a Memorandum of Under- standing (MOU) with DCED. This is a first -ever partnership between to two organiza- tions with the mutual understanding of the importance of sustaining agriculture in both counties.

On May 22, 2012, Delta County Econom- ic Development and Montrose Economic Development Corporation approached the Delta Montrose Electric Association (DMEA) Board of Directors seeking fund- ing for the administration of the CCPI grant and the sustainability of the Soil Health Project.

TheDMEABoardofDirectorsgraciously awarded $20,000 to the project. This dona- tion on behalf of DMEA shows tremen- dous amount of community support for the project and our local agricultural commu- nity.

This investment will be restricted to the successful implementation of the Soil Health Project and not be used for general administrative or other organizational ex- penses. It may cover any or all of the costs of the following:

• A project consultant to directly adminis- ter the requirements of the NRCS/CCPI grant. This part time consultant is tasked to administer the requirements of the CCPI agreement between DCED and NRCS.

• Specific activities which lead to on farm research, agriculture related economic de- velopment, and soil health related commu- nity outreach and education.

• Additional fund raising to implement other elements of the soil health project such as: research, economic development, demonstration farm, community outreach and education.

• Collaborative assistance to DMEA in planning for and developing new innova- tive infrastructure which will extend/ generate electrical power to farmers for irrigation technology.

• Administrative and technical support to the soil health leadership group. • Educational opportunities about sustaina- ble agriculture with federal, state and local governments. • Recognition for DMEA as the major pri- vate investor/partner for the Soil Health Project.

This project will not just benefit one or- ganization, but a community as a whole. By implementing these practices, produc- ers will improve soil quality and in turn waterqualitythroughreducedandleaching of nutrients pesticides, and sediment. By diversifying crop rotations with multiple species, the producers are likely to experi- ence less pest pressure as well as reduced requirement for synthetic inputs. These practices have the potential to improve crop yield and farm profitability. The grant will serve an estimated 50-75 row crop producers, improving 15,000 to 18,000 acres and up to 78% of all lands cultivated for row crops in the lower Uncompahgre Valley. Also recognized is the substantial role that our local fruit growers play in our counties.

In Delta and Montrose Counties, approxi- mately 3,000 acres (2,743 are located in Delta County) are dedicated to our local fruit growers adding another vital contribu- tion to the overall financial health of our local agricultural community.